October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means now is a better time than ever to start thinking about your health. With 1 in 8 women in the U.S. developing breast cancer, it remains one of the most common forms of cancer in women. BreastCancer.Org recommends that people with breasts perform a self-examination once a month, in addition to regular wellness exams.
If you’ve never done one before or aren’t sure about proper techniques, don’t fret. Walnut Lake OBGYN & Wellness has laid out all the steps! If you are in the West Bloomfield, MI area and need a checkup, contact Walnut Lake OBGYN & Wellness today.
Why Is It Important?
There is no one early detection test for breast cancer. Regular self-examination is one of the best ways to catch any abnormalities before receiving proper testing. In fact, between 2013 and 2018, the overall number of deaths related to breast cancer dropped by one percent each year due to earlier detection and advancements in treatments.
Performing self-examinations regularly helps you recognize and understand your “normal.” Meaning that if any changes appear, you’ll be able to catch them right away.
Who Should Self-Examine?
Anyone with breasts! No matter your age or medical history, it’s important for everyone to make self-exams part of their regular wellness routine. This is typically recommended to those aged 20 and over, but it’s never too late to start!
If you currently menstruate, the best time to examine your breasts is about a week after your period ends since your breasts will be less swollen. If you do not menstruate, you can self-examine any time–just be sure to keep to a monthly schedule.
Five Steps to Complete a Breast Self-Exam:
1. Stand in Front of a Mirror With Your Hands on Your Hips
Look at how your breasts look naturally. You should be checking for visual signs of breast cancer, including: noticeable changes in the size or shape of your breast, dimpling or puckering skin, redness, swelling, rash, and nipples that are inverted, have changed position, or leaking fluid.
2. Still Facing a Mirror, Lift Your Arms
Check for the same things, but this time with your arms lifted. This allows the tissue to shift so you can catch anything you may have missed before, while viewing the shape and contour of your breasts from a different perspective.
3. Use Your Hands to Feel for Lumps
Now that you’ve checked for visual changes, it’s time to check for tactile changes. Keeping your hand firm and fingers together, feel around the entirety of your breast for lumps. Use circular motions and be sure to check the top, bottom, sides, and nipples.
4. Lay Down and Feel For Lumps
Perform the same hand movements you did in the last step, but this time laying down. This is the best position to check for abnormalities because it evenly spreads the tissue. Find a pattern of movement that works for you, such as circles or up and down stripes like a lawnmower.
5. Check in the Shower
Many women prefer to perform their breast self-exams in the shower, since movements are smoother over wet skin. Use the same techniques that you would outside of the shower, being sure to check every area of the breast.
What to Do if You Find Any Abnormalities
Don’t panic–in many cases, lumps can be benign and not a reason for concern. Also, remember that a breast self-examination is not an accurate replacement for a mammogram or professional screening. Call your doctor and set up an appointment to take the next steps.
Rely On Walnut Lake OBGYN & Wellness
If you think you may have discovered an abnormality in your breast, have questions about your risk of developing breast cancer, or simply would like more self-education resources, Walnut Lake OBGYN & Wellness is here for you. We are committed to providing compassionate care no matter your situation.
If you are in or around the West Bloomfield, MI, area and are searching for a comprehensive women’s health practitioner, contact us at Walnut Lake OBGYN & Wellness today.